Hello Fellow Pima County Retiree:
You may be one of 669 Pima County Retirees who have lost affordable health care coverage for yourselves and your families. There has been a lot of information going back and forth over the last 10 months between the Retirees and Pima County Government. We would like to highlight the major issues regarding our loss of coverage and request your help.
A broken promise of county insurance coverage to retirees
Pima County promised employees who retired before July, 2009, health care coverage and used the promise of that coverage as an incentive to get them to retire. The County Administrator confirms this fact in a February 9, 2009 memo to the County Human Resources Director, “...it is important that we advise those employees who will be near or contemplating retirement...that to continue to be in the County insurance medical and dental plan as a retiree they must retiree before June 30, 2009.” It is important to note, that at the time he wrote this memo, he was preparing to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that insurance coverage be terminated for all County Retirees. This was a very cynical move on his part, to say the least.
Discrepancies in the cost Impact to retirees caused by the loss of county health coverage
The County Administrator has consistently downplayed the cost to Retirees as a result of switching from County funded health insurance to the health coverage provided through the ASRS system. On January 28, 2010, the County Administrator wrote that the cost impact to Retirees, “...is modest, approximately $112 per month...”. However in his February 9, 2009 memo cited above, he contradicts himself, by stating, “Based on state (ASRS) and County health insurance premiums, it would appear that the average monthly savings to a County retiree retaining the County's insurance plans for medical and dental coverage saves the retiring employee over $3,000 per year ($250 per month).” For many Retirees that we have surveyed, the actual costs are higher than the County Administrator's estimate. Retirees are facing out of pocket premium increases of $300, $400, $500, or even $600 per month.
Pima County's failure to seek available federal financial assistance to help defray the costs of providing county health care coverage to retirees
Pima County has consistently refused to apply for federal assistance (either on its own behalf or in conjunction with its insurance carrier, United Health Care). According to sources from both the state and federal government, they are eligible to access this assistance. A letter from the Director of Health and Human Services to members of Congress, dated May 10, 2010, states that, “ ...Both self-funded and insured plans may apply, including plans sponsored by private entities, state and LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, non-profits, religious entities, unions and other employers.” A representative from the Governor's Office has offered the assistance of the State Department of Administration to help Pima County apply for these funds.
Pima County's failure to provide Retirees with a one year notice of intent to discontinue coverage
In a March 27, 2009 memo, the County Administrator told the Board of Supervisors that Retirees would receive, “... (a) one-year notice to arrange their transition to the health insurance plan offered...in the State Retirement System." In fact, retirees were not notified until they received an unsigned letter from Pima County Human Resources dated February 8, 2010. This “notice” was received only four months prior to the termination of County coverage.
However, the Board of Supervisors did not actually make a final and lawful decision on this issue until April 20, 2010. Retirees did not receive an “official” notice of rescission of benefits (i.e. signed by a human being) until July 21, 2010. What this means is that retirees - by the County Administrator's own directive - should have retained coverage until at least July, 2011. Besides the financial ramifications to Retirees of this time extension, this interim period could have been used very productively. Retirees have offered to sit down with Pima County Government officials to work on more equitable and humane alternatives - much like the City of Tucson is doing with its Retirees.
Pima County can't afford to cover its retirees
The County Administrator used various budgetary “doomsday” scenarios to persuade a majority of the Board of Supervisors that keeping Retirees on coverage was not feasible. Apparently, the budget situation is not as bleak as portrayed. Estimates provided by other members of the Board show a budget surplus as large as perhaps $52 million dollars this year. This surplus has apparently given the Board of Supervisors the freedom to pay for health insurance coverage for persons being released from the County Jail and the Juvenile Detention Center. This is laudable, but don't we Retirees deserve the same level of concern by the Board? We would argue that regardless of the financial situation, Pima County has a moral and ethical responsibility to its Retirees to keep its promise of coverage.
Finally, an appearance of impropriety
It is important to note that United Health Care is the insurance carrier for both Pima County Government and the Arizona State Retirement System. The action by Pima County Government in forcing its retirees off County coverage onto State coverage means that UHC is taking significantly more money in premiums from the same group of retirees, while at the same time reducing their level of coverage. It may not be illegal, but it's morally and ethically bankrupt.
What You Can You Do
There are several things that every Retiree of Pima County can do to encourage the Board of Supervisors to vote to restore our health insurance coverage. These include:
1. Call and/or write your County Supervisor. If your Supervisor is either Sharon Bronson, Ramon Valadez or Richard Elias, tell them to support a restoration of Retiree health insurance coverage and to put this item on a regular BOS agenda for reconsideration and action. Only a dissenting voter (in this case, Supervisor Bronson, Elias, or Valadez) can place an item on a Board of Supervisors meeting agenda for reconsideration.
( Board of Supervisors Contact Info)
2. Be willing to attend upcoming Board of Supervisor meetings at which this item will be discussed. (We will let you know in advance which meetings these will be). Speak at these meetings, focusing on how the Board's decision has impacted your and your family's lives. Even if you choose not to speak, your physical presence in the audience will send a message of strength to the Board.
3. Contact the Arizona State Attorney General's Office and file an age discrimination complaint against Pima County for taking away your promised insurance coverage.
4. Join our association, come to our meetings and get involved. There are no fees involved.
Association Contact eMail firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Tell other Retirees you know to do #1, #2 and #3, and #4.
We need one more vote to turn this thing around and get our coverage restored. Supervisors Carroll and Day are with us. We need either Supervisor Bronson, Elias or Valadez to change their vote and put this item on the agenda.
The Board's action and the current discussions among politicians at the State level concerning our pensions makes it imperative that you let your voice be heard.
Pima County Retiree Association (PCRA)